Movie Review: “Blue Like Jazz”—The Tenth Circle of Hell

Written by Brent Holmes August 31, 2012

There is a section in Donald Miller’s autobiographical novel “A Million Miles in A Thousand Years” where Miller reflects on the process of writing a film adaptation of “Blue Like Jazz.” There is a general sense in that book that nothing will ever come of the attempt to adapt the film and watching it makes one wish they never did. “Blue Like Jazz,” the adaptation of the novel by Donald Miller sucks—and the sad thing is the novel was really good.

I’m blue (if I were green I would die)

Watching “Blue Like Jazz” is like eating a Joe-Louie or some childhood equivalent to discover that they’ve made them smaller, added more salt, and taken away the flavour. Anyone who remembers Miller’s novel will remember a lot of funny metaphors such as a rabbit chasing a “sexy carrot” or an astronaut lost in space. Here, these are turned into bizarre, unexplained symbols that float as transitions or in the background of scenes—but they are never explained. They are randomly inserted as though the filmmakers were trying to show off being artsy or smart, but the metaphor is never really explained and it just becomes senseless symbolism.

Also, among the overbearing symbols is a ridiculous amount of blue. Don wears blue in most of the scenes, his residence room is blue, his car is blue, the lights around Reed campus are blue, random props various characters carry are blue. It’s like the filmmakers are title dropping in every scene—heaven forbid someone think they were watching “Green Like Jazz”.


Annoying like “True Blood”

The nice thing about “Blue Like Jazz” (the novel that is) is that although it was a Christian book it wasn’t written for an explicitly Christian audience. Anyone could pick up that book and get interesting ideas out of it or at least enjoy reading it. While the film tries to be an “anti-Christian Christian movie” and different than other Christian films like “Courageous” or “Facing the Giants” trying to be different only draws attention to the preachy and annoying plot and characters.

Marshall Allman plays Miller with an angsty cry-baby rebellious streak that makes his role as Sam’s scumbag younger brother in “True Blood” seem tolerable. His college liberal, activist, sometimes friend sometimes love-interest classmate Penny (Claire Holt) is not much better. Other characters are equally boring as they only serve to demonstrate specific mentalities Don needs to fix in himself.


Less than a mile in 154,080 frames

Miller goes to college where he tries to rebel against the Southern Baptist Christianity he grew up under. At Reed College, he pulls off a variety of protest stunts and being a huge douche. He eventually goes onto accept his Christian identity and fix the relationships he spends the entire movie ruining. To give the movie credit, it does deal with a lot of the mentalities and reactions to college that church-grown teens might have—it just decides to deal with them in the most stereotypically annoying ways possible.

“Blue Like Jazz” is the worst Christian movie because the book is actually insightful on a greater level than being purely for an exclusively religious audience. There are moments when the potential for the film to be decent seems to pop out of the desecrated body of the book, but that corpse is not going to resurrect. At the end of the day, the only good thing to come out of direct-to-DVD Christian film releases is still VegeTales.

My Rating: 1/10

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About Brent Holmes

Brent Holmes is a Film Studies and English Major attending Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario where he is working towards a PhD in Film Studies. He currently writes for We Eat Films and The Western Gazette (on the latter, he serves as Arts & Life editor).

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